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Revealed: Pentagon, DEA Secretly Bought Spyware From Front Company

© Flickr / Yuri SamoilovRemote Control System is capable of operating microphones on mobile devices, computer webcams, and even pull user data from those sources.
Remote Control System is capable of operating microphones on mobile devices, computer webcams, and even pull user data from those sources. - Sputnik International
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The Italian-based tech company Hacking Team has developed new software capable of remotely manipulating cell phone mics and computer webcams. And they’ve evidently signed a major deal with the US government.

"Here in HackingTeam we believe that fighting crime should be easy," the company’s website reads, and to that end it develops "offensive technologies" for surveillance purposes. It’s most popular product: the Remote Control System (RCS) spyware.

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Little is known about the spyware, but an investigation by Privacy International revealed that RCS is capable of operating microphones on mobile devices, computer webcams, and even pull user data from those sources.

It can, in effect, be used to target anyone on the planet.

"Our technology is used daily to fight crime in six continents," Hacking Team’s website reads.

The company has come under intense criticism in the past for knowingly providing its technologies for the purpose of targeting journalists and activists. As such, Hacking Team faces strict export controls by the Italian government.

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Not that there aren’t ways to get around those export regulations. Records obtained by Privacy International show that in 2011, a $350,000 deal was made between the US Army and a company called Cicom. That company was registered at the same exact address as Hacking Team’s US branch, and the purchase was for a "Remote Control System."

But the military isn’t the only one potentially making under-the-table deals with what appears to be a front company. The US Justice Department may also be involved.

"The [Drug Enforcement Agency] is seeking information from potential sources with a fully functional and operations product proven to be capable of providing a Remote Control Host Based Interception System for device or target specific collection pursuant to authorized law enforcement use," the DEA announced in 2012.

And a few months later, it, too, began making payments to Cicom. After an initial down payment of $575,000, the DEA will be paying off the total $2,410,000 in installments through 2017.

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Hacking Team has provided no official response, but its website says, "We cannot identify our clients since to do so could jeopardize ongoing law enforcement investigations."

The DEA has seen its share of controversy recently. Earlier this month, a USA Today investigative report found that the Drug Enforcement Agency was collecting bulk telephone data nearly a decade before the National Security Agency began the practice, as revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden.

"The now-discontinued operation, carried out by the DEA’s intelligence arm, was the government’s first known effort to gather data on Americans in bulk, sweeping up records of telephone calls made by millions of US citizens regardless of whether they were suspected of a crime," wrote USA Today.

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"The key point here is disrespect for the Constitution…it is a violation of the Fourth Amendment [to the US Constitution] before 9/11," former CIA analyst Raymond McGovern told Sputnik.

It was also revealed earlier this year that the DEA has been collecting license plate data to build a massive database about millions of Americans, as well as photographing individuals inside of their vehicles without consent.

"Using massive systems of automated license plate recognition devices absolutely violates our fundamental right to privacy," Nicholas Sarwark, Chairman of the US Libertarian National Committee, told Sputnik. "These systems allow the government to know everything about a person’s movements, especially when combined with facial recognition."

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